Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is crucial for cardiovascular and heart health. With heart disease and stroke being two of the leading causes of death in the United States, its no wonder that maintaining a healthy blood pressure is top of mind for many people.
While salt intake is crucial to reducing high blood pressure, there is another often forgotten factor: stress. Reducing stress is very, very important. Stress triggers the body's fight or flight response: one of the features of which (besides increased heart rate and blood flow to muscles) is elevated blood pressure. If the fight-or-flight response is repeatedly triggered or even stuck on, then the blood pressure in the body can be higher than it otherwise would be.
How do we reduce stress on our bodies? The main ways are through relaxation techniques (including acupuncture and meditation), a low-sodium diet, and exercise. While you may not add salt to your foods, there are many foods that contain high levels of sodium that you may not be aware of. Think of deli meats, pre-packaged foods with a long shelf life, and common condiments such as hot sauce, ketchup and soy sauce. If you consume a little less salt daily, your taste buds will adjust to the lower salt levels. This in turn will help your body reduce blood pressure. In general, the less processed the food is, the better it is for you. The perimeter of the grocery store is a good place to start looking for lower sodium foods as well. Hydration is also important to regulate blood pressure so make sure you're consuming enough water. Including regular exercise in a daily routine can also help regulate blood pressure. Exercise doesn't have to be complicated, walking counts! Acupuncture helps reduce blood pressure as well. In addition to your acupuncture treatment, add in lifestyle modifications like a low-sodium diet, regular water intake, and exercise for maximum results.
Disclaimer: Yes, eating healthy and nutritious food IS important. Diet choices can certainly contribute to chronic health problems but it is too simplistic to claim they are the cause of all that ails you. Not all health problems are related to food. (Although some certainly are). Certain foods can make some health issues worse and while diet changes are certainly helpful in these cases, we can help people even if they are not ready to change their diet. Nutritious food is not easy to access in all areas- due to the expense or it is just simply not available. For example, convenience stores with limited fresh food selections can be found in rural or urban areas instead of grocery stores. Sometimes people have trauma around food and/or eating, and instructing someone to “eat better” is not helpful at all. For others, eating is how they have learned to process their emotions and they need the help of a counselor or therapist to be able to change their eating habits. Sometimes a person simply doesn’t know what healthy eating is and needs to consult with a nutritionist.
Everybody’s body is different! Some bodies do better with a higher amount of carbs, some with protein. Being vegetarian works for some and for some it does not. There is no one size fits all diet.
Acupuncture can help with health problems whether people change their diet, or not! Everyone has different health-related goals and our mission is to help you get where you want to go, without judgement. If you find this post helpful, please give it a like!
There is no separation between what is felt physically or emotionally in the body. Keeping that in mind, extreme emotional trauma can cause physical symptoms. What it doesn’t mean is that it is all "in your head", it is real! Strong emotions cause physiological changes in our bodies, especially when we are under stress. The need to fight or the need to run away causes chemical changes in our bodies to prepare us to do either. If the body is constantly under stress, our bodies can get stuck in the fight or flight mode. Acupuncture releases emotions stuck in the body - this frequently happens during the treatment itself but may occur in the 24 hours following treatment.
Here are some clues that there might be something emotional going on:
Pain that moves around or symptoms that do not have a medical explanation. Did your symptoms that start around the time of a traumatic event? Or are you experiencing common symptoms such as chest tightness, stomach aches, nausea, headaches, tight muscles or trouble sleeping? Frequently when these types of symptoms show up with no other explanation it can be a clue that they are stemming from emotional causes. The good news is acupuncture can help! We very often see patients who have had every medical test available with no answer to why they are feeling so poorly and we can help these folks.
Most people walk around with their head disconnected from their body; not aware of what’s going on until their symptoms are so prominent that they can no longer be ignored. The trick is to pay attention to what your body is saying and take action before symptoms are out of control. Building awareness takes practice! Sometimes we train ourselves to not pay attention to pain occurring in the body. This includes those who are athletic, or those who are recovering from any type of trauma. It is common for athletes and others to “push through the pain” until all current and future symptoms are ignored. Chronic symptoms can actually teach us a lot about our bodies and that we need to change our behaviors.
Most behavior changes are simple! Such as going to bed earlier or saying no to a request that has a potential to drain your energy. It can also take the form of monitoring your diet for food sensitivities. Chronic problems may never disappear completely, so acceptance is the key to changing your perspective on how you approach the relationship with your body.
Noticing how our bodies respond to different situations can be useful to determine if that is a healthy situation or behavior. For instance, if you notice stomach upset or constipation after eating dairy products, that is a clue that dairy products are not compatible with your body! Or, if you notice your anxiety spiking after staying up late the evening before it is definitely your body’s way of telling you to go to bed earlier. Paying attention to clues such as these can help you avoid major health problems down the road.
Sometimes getting to the root of the symptom is difficult. There may not be a noticeable link between an emotional origin and a physical symptom, but that may be why you are experiencing one. It is worth talking to someone and getting outside perspective to see if a physical symptom has an emotional origin. For example, if several symptoms started suddenly three months ago, think about what was going on in your life at the time for clues. The clues may be obvious to someone else, but it can be difficult to figure out on your own.
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Losing weight is a personal health goal. You can be healthy at any size. While a healthy body weight is important it is not the whole story. Research shows a person's level of activity is more important than their body weight. A skinny person who is sedentary may be less healthy than someone who exercises regularly but has a few extra pounds. Shaming and talking down to yourself that you need to lose weight or else does not help- it can in fact make things worse. And certainly blaming every health problem or ache or pain you have on your body weight doesn't help either- even skinny people and athletic people can suffer from chronic health problems!
A lot of people need to feel better before they can tackle the lifestyle change and dedication necessary to achieve lasting weight loss. And that's ok. Acupuncture can help you get there if weight loss is your goal, and if its not- that's ok too. How does acupuncture help with weight loss? Acupuncture helps to balance hormones, improve digestion, increase motivation, reduce sugar cravings, improve sleep and relieve the stress that results in emotional eating. Every patient is different but what we find is that for most patients we are working on a several different areas to help them achieve their goals.
Think about the people you spend the most time with. Are they adding to or subtracting from your life? Is there anyone who, after you interact with them, you feel consistently drained or negative? Everyone has bad days, but do you have someone in your life who is always complaining?If you have energy vampires around you, maybe consider addition by subtraction. Sometimes boundaries have to be set for people you interact with to keep them from sucking your emotional energy.
Most of us do not have unlimited energy and we need to be careful how we give our energy away and who we give it to. Be selective with who gets your time. We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. We don’t have control over who we must interact with like family or co-workers or a boss.
The people we spend our time with are important. Its helpful to surround yourself with positive, supportive people especially when you are trying to make a life changes. Having an accountability buddy, someone with similar goals that you can check in with can help you reach your goals. Having a buddy with similar goals can also help protect you when you fall down. When you are also in charge of keeping someone else accountable it helps you stick to your goals, too.
Its also good to take some time to reflect on what kind of friend you are. Are you supportive of your friends? Are you there for them when they need you? Do you emotionally dump on them without giving in return? As women sometimes we have difficulty being direct or asking for what we want. Are you being passive aggressive or are you not feeling heard? There is always room for self-reflection and improvement for all of us.
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I get it. Water tastes bad and it is boring. But before you pour some sugary flavor into your water or drink another diet soda, let me share some awesome things about water. First of all water is plentiful and it is free. It is readily available and it has zero calories. 60% of your body is water and 90% of our blood is water- that is alot of water! The benefits of drinking water, besides keeping you alive, is it helps your skin look fantastic, flushes out toxins, maintains our body temperature and helps digestion. Water also helps maintain blood pressure, helps with asthma and allergies and prevents muscle cramps and soreness.
Are you drinking enough water? Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, headaches, irritability, trouble concentrating and muscle cramps. Aim to drink ½ your body weight in ounces, more if its hot outside.
To adjust your taste buds, get used to drinking water by diluting other drinks until you get used to it. Once you adjust your taste it is actually delicious. If you are trying to get off of soda try seltzer, a squeeze of lemon or lime or some fresh mint leaves. Comment below with your favorite way to drink water!
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Most people start an exercise routine for weight loss, but there are many other benefits. Try to look at exercise as a gift to yourself and weight loss being a nice side effect. It will take the pressure off and make it more fun, and more fun means you are more likely to do it and stick with it.
If you are focused on weight loss, remember all the other reasons exercise is beneficial, this will help you stick to your goals. Exercise relieves stress, lowers the risk of chronic diseases and also provides some much needed “me time”.
Keep it simple and make it fun. Be sure to wear good socks and shoes and make an appointment with yourself. Put it in your calendar. Do it first thing in the morning, on your lunch break or even after dinner. It can be as simple as going on a walk or doing some yoga. If you’re walking or running, consider listening to your favorite music or an audiobook. You can even call a friend to catch up! Other ideas include the tons of videos and classes on YouTube or Zoom for everything from dancing to kickboxing. Aim for 3x a week, but for the first month, just aim to make it a habit. Comment below with your favorite form of exercise!
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Actually I’m going to give you more than one because I love to over-deliver for you all. I’m giving these tips not because of Covid-19 but because we can all benefit from making sure our immune system is working optimally. Regular colds, flus and other pathogens are always out there, do what you can to keep your body’s defense system in tip top shape. This doesn’t have to be complicated, try these simple things:
Adequate sleep. For most people this is 7-9 hours a night. To get good sleep shut off your phone and news sources 2 hours before your bedtime and make sure your room is cool and dark.
Regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week. Work up a sweat.
Supplements: fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin C all help to boost the immune system. In my house we do an extra dose at the first sign of any sniffles.
Super foods: live, probiotic and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Avoid sugary yogurt.
What difference does this make for you? Please comment below because I would love to know.
Meaghan Massella, M.Ac, L.Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM) is an acupuncturist, business owner and mother of 2.